Before the beginning of this offseason, 2022’s free-agency
period was supposed to be the next super-class of stars potentially
moving elsewhere. However, three weeks later, those dreams have
died rather quickly with teams either securing long-term extensions
or future cap space dissipating.
Now, we’re staring down the barrel of Bradley Beal and Zach
LaVine as the headliners. And even then, all signs point to both
players eventually signing lucrative extensions with their
respective organizations. Projected 2022 restricted free agents —
headlined by Deandre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges and
Jaren Jackson Jr. — figure to also sign long-term deals before next
season even begins, further dampening an already
weaker-than-expected crop of talent movement.
So, who’s ready for a potential free agency period where T.J.
Warren and Aaron Gordon are the biggest names that might hit the
open market via unrestricted free agency? Marcus Smart and Terry
Rozier recently signed multi-year extensions, so two of the other
top names are already off the board a year in advance.
If you thought 2021's top-tier of free agents was a downtrodden
year compared to years past, next summer looks to be an even more
disappointing collection of franchise-changing talent.
Many players are taking the guaranteed long-term security in
order to avoid a situation we just saw unfold with Dennis Schroder.
After declining a four-year, $84 million extension with the Los
Angeles Lakers, Schroder ended up signing a 1-year deal with the
Boston Celtics late in free agency. It goes to show that sometimes
betting on yourself to improve your annual value can be a dangerous
game to play when there are no guarantees. And in the days of
player empowerment, where a simple trade request can get you out
the door of an organization at a moment's notice, you can still do
that a few years into your new deal if it’s not going well for
Another reason why there isn’t expected to be much player
movement via free agency next offseason is due to projected cap
space available elsewhere. Currently, only three teams look to have
enough to go star-hunting if they so desire: the Orlando Magic,
Detroit Pistons and New Orleans Pelicans. Those are not exactly the
markets that big-fish free agents are desiring to chase
With limited flexibility amongst NBA teams, the best bet for
extensive player movement next offseason is via trade. Beal is the
obvious name to watch under this
scenario if he decides to pass on a Supermax extension from the
Washington Wizards. If Beal wants to decline a future in
Washington, but also not leave them empty-handed, a sign-and-trade
is a strong possibility.
Zooming back out and looking ahead to the 2022 class of
unrestricted free agents, here are the top names still projected to
hit the open market as of today:
Ball-Handlers: Bradley Beal (player option),
Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo, Dennis Schroder, Ricky Rubio, Goran
Dragic, Patrick Beverley
Wings: T.J. Warren, Aaron Gordon, Otto Porter
Jr., Robert Covington, Kyle Anderson, Gary Harris, Joe Ingles
Bigs: Jusuf Nurkic, Jonas Valanciunas, Blake
Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Thaddeus Young, Tristan Thompson, Thomas
Bryant, Montrezl Harrell
Outside of Beal and LaVine — as mentioned, unlikely both even
hit the open market a year from now — there’s no true “star” free
agent. Unless an organization makes an aggressive push for a
B-level player like Warren or Gordon, and maybe even Oladipo if he
proves to be 100% healthy following a lingering quad issue that has
altered his career trajectory, the talent crop is not exactly
Be ready for another quiet free agency period next offseason. In
2021, we at least had a few players who had the potential of
altering potential ceiling outcomes for their new organizations.
Looking ahead, that appears not to be the case for 2022 unless
something drastic occurs.
All eyes now will be focused upon the future of Beal and LaVine.
They hold all the cards for what could either be an explosive 2022
offseason, or one of the quietest in terms of summer movement we’ve
seen in a very long time.
It’s safe to say we’re not used to seeing this limited amount of
talent entering into an open market, especially where organizations
seem to prioritize continuity over splashes with very few projected
max-contract slots open around the NBA.